A Festival of Russian Ballet

The Imperial Russian Ballet Company Bolero - photo by Masanori UdagawaUnder the artistic direction of Gediminas Taranda, The Imperial Russian Ballet Company travels the world presenting productions of the great Russian ballet classics. It’s a regular visitor to Canberra where the company has built up a strong following, as evidenced by the enthusiastic audience which attended this performance.

Despite its demanding touring schedule, the company manages to maintain high production values with excellent sets and lavish costumes. The standard of the dancing too is impressively high, with Taranda demonstrating his knack of refreshing his productions with clever, choreographic interpolations which emphasis the strengths of his dancers without compromising the integrity of the original choreography.

This 2017 program consisted of a lively potted version of his production of Don Quixote which the company had presented in full in 2014, Bolero which it had previously presented in 2013, and seven short divertissements, of which only one, Russian Waltz was new to Canberra.

It was a pleasure to revisit this Don Quixote which is danced to the familiar Minkus music with choreography by Taranda, based on Alexander Gorsky’s original. This version retains its elaborate painted settings and spectacular costumes, which, it must be noted, are beginning to show the effects of constant touring, cleverly compressing the storyline into a one hour presentation, while preserving the set pieces.

Vivaciously danced by the company, despite the demands of a heavy touring schedule, this production is notable for its spectacular ensemble dancing, and the clever use of fans by the women and capes by the men to create excitement and spectacle. It also features some scene-stealing clowning from Vitautas Taranda, as Kitri’s father.

A stunning dancer, absolutely on top of her technique, Lina Seveliova was a pert, pretty and delightfully mischievous Kitri. As Basilio, the object of her affections, tall and elegant, Sergey Kheylik was up to any challenge Kitri could put in his way. The chemistry between the pair provided the heartbeat for the production. Viorel Miron commanded the stage with some spectacular cape work as the swaggering toreador, Espada, as did Anna Pashkova as the sultry street dancer.

Pashkova’s powerful presence was also the centrepiece of Nikolay Androsov’s dramatic version of Ravel’s Bolero. As The Godhead, seated high above the strikingly costumed ensemble, she dominated the stage. Then when she descended to the stage as the ballet progressed towards the stunning climax through an ever-changing kaleidoscope of massed movement, her presence remained the focal point of the work.

Later in the divertissement section, which commenced with a jolly little Melbourne Cup work choreographed by Taranda to the music of the William Tell Overture, Pashkova demonstrated her versatility in a technically exquisite performance of the classic Dying Swan.

Also in this section Irena Gharibyan and Sergey Kheylik thrilled with a dynamic performance of the Le Corsaire pas de deux, then later with an exquisite interpretation of the Act 11 pas de deux from Giselle. Denys Simon astonished with his firecracker solo, Gopak, and Iuliia Ushakova and Viorel Miron charmed as they led the ensemble through an elegant piece choreographed by Taranda to the music of Shostakovich, entitled Russian Waltz.

The program ended with another Taranda piece, a delightfully campy Can Can Surprise, in which a very tall, clumsy ballerina, (Vladimir Dorofeev) and her two diminutive escorts (Denys Simon and Viorel Miron) created havoc to the music of Offenbach, providing the perfect finale to a satisfying and entertaining evening of superb classical ballet.

A Festival of Russian Ballet
The Playhouse – Canberra Theatre Centre, London Circuit, Canberra
Performance: Monday 23 October 2017

The Imperial Russian Ballet Company will perform in South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland on selected dates. For more information, visit: www.russianballet.com.au for details.

Image: The Imperial Russian Ballet Company presents Bolero – photo by Masanori Udagawa

Review: Bill Stephens OAM